Knowledge Is Power: Competitive Intelligence for Entrepreneurs

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By IAN GLADESTONE | PIVOT Guest Contributor

Running a successful company involves more than just keeping the books straight and making sure you lock up at night. The psychology of business is a field all of its own and certain business strategies can improve your company’s profitability, innovation and overall success.

One way to enhance your business is by applying a Competitive Intelligence Strategy. Competitive Intelligence is the process of collecting as much information as possible about your competitors … in an ethical way of course. Businesses use this method to learn all they can about rival companies so they can organise and improve their own company. Think of it as a kind of extreme market research, designed to give you an edge over your competition.

To do this, read up on your competitors. You can do this first on your own, by following their website and social media. By storing the information on a spreadsheet or database, you might notice what they post most often and most enthusiastically. This could suggest something important is on the horizon, such as a product launch. Alternatively, the tone and frequency of their posts may suggest the business is experiencing tough times, so you can capitalize on this temporary moment of weakness.

There are also several websites, some are free and some charge a fee, which provide profiles of public and private companies, specifically for competitive intelligence purposes.

Research in person

To gain Competitive Intelligence, gather information from experts both internally and externally. Speak to co-workers who have been involved with the company, they will have a natural feel for the current market trends and habits of your competition.

Industry experts outside the company can also help. Speak to experts at trade shows, conferences and other industry events and build a working relationship with them. Just as they’ll provide you with information, you can help them by sharing your findings.

When to Start

Competitive intelligence works best if you do it from the onset of your business planning. Do as much research as you can, as soon as you can, about both the industry and its leaders. The insight will give you an idea of how best to design your own company, if it’s new, or how to reorganize an existing company.

Analyze in depth

Gather as much information you can, but remember industries and the businesses within them are constantly evolving. Once you feel you’ve gained enough information about your competitors, it’s time to analyse your findings in depth.

Use your spreadsheet as well as information from competitive intelligence websites to create a massive information database. Analyze the data thoroughly and present it to your company’s CEO and other executives.

Apply within

Finally, apply what you’ve learned within your own company. Understanding the way other successful companies operate can boost performance and trigger innovation. For example; if you know your competitor is about to launch a new product, you may be able to release something better around the same time. Of course, that’s playing hardball, but then again that’s business.

Making use of Competitive Intelligence is all about being business savvy. All good businesses should do it. If you don’t at least keep your eye on the competition, you could be missing out.

 

Ian Gladstone is an independent business analyst and a big admirer of the late Steve Jobs.

 

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